ATLANTA – Snow doesn’t stop Santa, as was proven last week by an outpouring of support for a gift drive for children away from home for the holidays.

The Division of Family and Children Services (DFCS) Secret Santa Program –held in partnership with Clark Howard’s Christmas Kids, St. Vincent de Paul Georgia and Walmart stores – annually provides gifts for children in foster care based on their personalized wish lists. The Division set and exceeded a record goal this year: to provide gifts for more than 9,100 children.

Still, the more ambitious program was on track until an unusual December snowfall cancelled several Wal-Mart shopping events. That left donations short by the requests of 2,000 children.

DFCS, along with its partners, organized a call to action, and the response was overwhelming. In only four days, the public raised more than $265,000 exceeding the Division’s goal.

This year’s drive was the largest collection of gifts in the program’s 27-year history with a total of about $1.5 million in purchased gifts and monetary donations.

“This year’s Secret Santa campaign is a testament to the strength in communities around the state,” said Interim DFCS Director Virginia Pryor. “As Georgia strives to become a State of Hope – a place where communities band together to support their most vulnerable – it is encouraging to witness citizens and communities spring into action and address local needs,” Pryor said.

“Several organizations stepped up to provide hope to youth in foster care this season: the faith community, state agencies and elected officials, corporations and individual benefactors all stepped up to be Santa for our youth in care,” she said.

Georgians supported the program through in-kind donations of gifts to fulfill individual children’s wish lists and nearly 2,450 individual online donations.

“I am blown away by the response to our call for help and by the demonstration of pure love and compassion by each person who stepped up and gave of themselves for this cause,” Pryor said. “I am especially grateful for Clark Howard, who has been tireless in his efforts to support Georgia's foster children for more than 25 years, and for our partners at Walmart and St. Vincent de Paul Georgia who make this event possible each year.”

Howard, host of the WSB-AM/WSBB-FM’s Clark Howard Show, was also impressed by this year’s effort.

“I am grateful and stunned,” he said. “I was amazed at the enormous response Sunday, our largest ever single donation day, but at the same time, I was deflated knowing that we finished Sunday with 2,000 of Georgia’s foster children having the prospect of no gifts to open on Christmas morning.

“But our listeners responded! Their incredibly generous cash donations have closed the gap, and now more than 9,100 children will have their Christmas wishes fulfilled.”

About Georgia DFCS

DFCS administers foster care for children removed from their homes for their protection when they have been subjected to abuse and neglect. It is responsible for the investigation of reports of child abuse; recruitment of foster homes for abused and neglected children; issuance of SNAP, Medicaid, TANF and childcare assistance to low-income families; assistance for out-of-work parents to help them get back on their feet as well as multiple support services and programs to help families in need.